Five Questions with Alice Pencavel
Editors Note: We caught up with Alice Pencavel, who has written a few wonderful pieces for this very publication and now has a show coming up in the United Solo Festival on Tuesday, October 18th.
Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?
I was born and raised in Palo Alto, California. I came out to New York for graduate school in 2010, and have been kicking about Brooklyn since I graduated in 2013.
Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?
Difficult to pin down, of course, but I’d have to say it lies somewhere between Beethoven’s 9th and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Both pieces are epic, while also incredibly precise in their transitions. I played piano for ten years and feel it has had the greatest influence over my writing — especially playwriting — as I approach the work from an auditory place. How a story progresses, shifts, deepens, to me is synonymous to key, rhythm, tempo. Always the biggest indicator as to whether a scene is working or not, lies in the… timing.
What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?
I think it’d be pretty rad to be a physicist. From what I understand, the essence of the job requires large philosophical thinking paired with practical math. I’m terrible at math, and my skills for conceptualizing are rather limited, certainly when it comes to postulating abstract matter, or basically anything that does not directly relate to human behavior.
Tell me about the United Solo Festival – is this your first time presenting work as part of this festival? What are you most looking forward to seeing?
This is indeed my first time presenting work with the United Solo Festival, (though I’ve ‘participated’ as an audience member before…). The festival hosts so so many shows, it is at once overwhelming and exciting. Many of the shows are from places outside of New York, which is always refreshing. I am soon to see Thief — a show from Scotland! It involves gay sailors, and the playwright calls himself a ‘vagabond.’ Looking forward to that one.
Okay, so, solo shows. Some people love’em, some people avoid them on principle alone. Why is this? (And how will THE GLOWING BOOT explode our expectations?)
There’s nothing worse than watching a shrimp-person step on stage and knowing you’re stuck with that person until they bow. I get that, absolutely. The American ‘solo show’ scene is strewn with tropes all too easy to mock — “Hey, look at all my different hats!” But, similar to the worlds of improv and devised theater perhaps, when it’s good, it’s great. Watching Jefferson Mayes perform I Am My Own Wife was transformative, and I think this is because when it’s working it is touching on something deeply primal and simple: the oral tradition of storytelling. It can awaken the bones. Thus, I am approaching The Glowing Boot less with a ‘solo show’ mindset and more a ‘Homeric poetry’ mindset. The show is intense, funny, bizarre, but throughout holds a deep reverence for a very, very old tradition.